By Jenna Zigler, OD, FAAO
I always say that I became an optometrist because I wanted to help people. I quickly fell in love with eye care mission work in optometry school and, for many years, I thought helping people meant seeing patients every single day and once a year on mission trips. But in the past five years, my career has taken a turn that I never could have predicted. The road has been bumpy, but the rewards have been worth it, and this turn of events has propelled me more quickly into defining and fulfilling my mission than I ever could have imagined.
When I graduated from optometry school in 2011, I dove straight into seeing patients. But after a few years, I wanted something more. My husband, Travis Zigler, OD, FAAO, FSLS, and I wanted our own practice, where we could call our own shots and be our own boss. So in 2015, we took a leap and quit our jobs, moved across the country and started two practices.
As anyone starting a new practice knows, it can be incredibly stressful in the early months. Some days, we would see tons of patients and other days were incredibly boring. During that time, we came across a course that would teach us how to build a business by selling on Amazon. After deciding we could find the time to dedicate to this new venture, we soon fell into a whole new world of business that I never really knew existed.
We got up every single day and watched business training until we went to work. We saw patients from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and then came home to work on our new business until we fell asleep. Why were we doing this? Truthfully, I thought it would be a simple way to make a couple thousand dollars to send us on our eye care mission trips every year.
PATIENT QUESTION: CAN YOU DO IT FOR LESS?
We formed Eye Love in May of 2015 and began selling polarized sunglasses. But after a year of doing this, we realized we wanted to build a bigger brand. Our Heyedrate brand was born because we saw a huge need in the marketplace. In our practices, we treated many people with dry eye disease, but some of the products were becoming too expensive for our patients to purchase every month. A lightbulb went off one day when a patient came in complaining of how expensive her hypochlorous acid eyelid cleanser had become. No longer was it $30 per month, but it was now $300. She asked us a simple question…could we formulate something similar, without the hefty price tag?
Heyedrate Lid and Lash Cleanser was born.
I did my research, and we went to work finding a supplier that we could trust. In the meantime, we started the Dry Eye Syndrome Support Community on Facebook as a way to engage potential customers but also provide much-needed information to the public. So many patients were visiting their eye doctors, complaining of horrible dry eye symptoms, and leaving with nothing more than artificial tears. I knew there had to be a better, more effective way to educate patients, and we soon found that thousands of people were looking for this very thing.
As our company grew, I began to feel the strain of running two practices full time and a business on the side which had become much bigger than I ever expected. After finding out we were pregnant with our son, we made the decision to sell both practices and focus completely on Eye Love and Heyedrate. At the time, it was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.
SAYING GOODBYE TO DIRECT PATIENT CARE
Could I really leave patient care behind? Hadn’t I gone to school for years to make this happen? I soon realized, however, that I was able to help so many more people by building our brands online. We started the Eye Love Cares Foundation as a way to enhance our giving, and a portion of our profits from Eye Love and Heyedrate are donated to the foundation. We use this to fund eye care for those who can neither afford nor obtain it, for student scholarships and for supporting The Ohio State University College of Optometry (our alma mater).
Because this is life and life is always changing, my mission has changed as well. Although I’m still helping people, it’s now just on a greater scale. Our company mission is to help 1,000,000 dry eye sufferers heal naturally. We do this through education and the products we offer (which are all as natural as we can make them). Personally, I still want to help end preventable blindness, which brings me full circle back to the eye care missions I love so much. By building Eye Love, I’m still able to help one person at a time, but I’m also able to give back more than I ever thought I would be able to 10 years out of school.
Dr. Jenna Zigler, OD, FAAO, is a graduate of The Ohio State University College of Optometry. She is an optometrist and the co-founder of Eye Love, whose mission is to heal 1,000,000 dry eye sufferers naturally. Dr. Jenna and her husband use the profits from Eye Love to fund free and low cost clinics in Jamaica and in the U.S. They do this through their charity, the Eye Love Cares Foundation, which also provides exams, eyeglasses and sunglasses for those in need, free education, and scholarships for students who align with their mission. Dr. Zigler co-hosts The Dry Eye Show on YouTube and Facebook.